Letters to the editor

What’s love got to do with survival?

I’ve just read the article on polyamory [“A Big, Big Love,” Feb. 8]. A few things occurred to me that I wanted to mention.

Please understand that I am looking at this issue from as scientific a point of view as I can muster (seeing as how I’m not actually a scientist) and not as a judgment of anyone’s lifestyle. I truly feel that people should do what works for them as long as they are not hurting anyone.

The reasons for monogamy are tied to the survival instinct of our ancestors (that presumably we still possess, or this would not even be an issue). For males, it ensures that their DNA passes to the next generation by removing the question of “Whose baby is this?” (infidelity notwithstanding). This is a biological imperative for any species. For females, the biological need is there as well — the male will be there to help raise the children (bring home mammoth meat, etc.) in a monogamous relationship.

The reasons for polyamory are the flip side to that same coin. Males have the biological imperative to “spread their seed,” while females have the urge to seek out the alpha male. This helps to explain the existence of “celestial marriages” and harems, in my opinion.

None of what I’ve written addresses anything beyond survival instinct, and doesn’t mean to address present-day reality in any way except maybe to help answer the last question in the column (paraphrasing): Why can’t we love more than one person? Survival instinct is hard to overcome, especially when, as in this case, it is turned into a moral issue for centuries, nay, millenia (and I think we can thank the patriarchs for that little bonus; “philandering” men are viewed as “studs,” whereas women who do the same thing are just viewed as amoral and “loose,” slutty and, for most of history and even now in some parts of the world, ruined goods).

Just my opinion.

— Elizabeth Martin

County (and city) should declare tax intentions

Like almost everyone in Buncombe County, I recently received a revaluation notice that stated a substantial increase in the assessed value of my home. Published reports show the average property value increasing by 45 percent over the last four years, and our home went up by 52 percent.

I have no problem with that, as it does reflect the increases in actual values in our area, and by state law, properties must be assessed at market value.

The real property taxes we will end up paying are influenced by another factor, however, which is within the power and the responsibility of both the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners and (for city residents) the Asheville City Council. That factor is the millage rate — the amount we pay per $1,000 of assessed value. I am concerned that, unlike in previous reassessment years, I’ve heard nothing from either government concerning rolling back of the millage rate to result in a relatively unchanged property-tax bill. In 1998 and 2002, both governments pledged revenue neutrality, although it is arguable that that really happened.

If revenue neutrality is not achieved, we taxpayers will see an average 45 percent increase in our property taxes! With the substantial increases in energy costs, insurance rates and general cost of living, and without a comparable increase in wages, the effects are already devastating to those who are financially stressed. An increase of even 10 percent on property taxes will be noticeable and painful to many already struggling.

I have high hopes for our new City Council and our new city manager, and have no significant problems with our county commissioners. Still, as governments, Buncombe County and the city of Asheville are bureaucracies, and more income is always preferable to expenditure reduction.

Too many of our citizens are already struggling to afford their homes, and a massive tax increase will financially destroy many of them. Even though they may not be able to set the millage rate at this date, the county commissioners and the City Council can and must address their intentions, and quickly.

— Ron Dame,
N.C. Certified General AppraiserAsheville

Would the Dalai Lama give you a dime?

I am writing in response to those who think we should give money to all those who ask for it. I work downtown, and if I gave money to someone every time they asked, I’d be on the streets. I am always willing to pay someone to sweep the sidewalk or wash the windows — it gives everyone involved a sense of fair exchange and puts them on a more even level, instead of promoting the idea that they are “lowly” or a “beggar.”

While I agree that there must be a moral solution to this problem, spare change does not solve the homeless situation; in fact, makes it worse. My spiritual guide, the Dalai Lama, has expressed that sometimes compassion lies in not enabling others to destroy themselves. None of the times that I have chosen to give money to someone did it improve their quality of life — it only eased my conscience. The same 50 or so people, the “chronically homeless,” are panhandling to fuel their habits, which create behaviors that are not only bad for business, but dangerous and destructive.

We need radical ideas and open dialogue to address this issue. We are not the first city to face homelessness, but I have faith that if any can come up with a progressive solution, it is Asheville, N.C.

P.S. Love Mackensey Lunsford’s critiques.

— Rebecca Hecht

What Staples could do for us

I admire Staples’ way of going straight to the problem by trying to figure out a way to undo some of the harsh feelings citizens of Asheville have toward them because of the “Staples Wall.” They are not ignoring the problem and have invited input to see what they can do.

I have a suggestion. It seems to me that if Staples bought the Asheville Civic Center and turned it into the Asheville Staples Center, all might be forgiven. I certainly would forgive them just about anything if they would solve this old problem.

— Sandra Bradbury

Fat can be bad — or good

The studies published recently indicating that a low-fat diet has negligible effect on the risk of chronic diseases validate what leading health authorities have been saying for the past decade: it’s not just fat — it’s the saturated fat in meat, eggs and dairy products. The studies found that those women who cut down on saturated fat had a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and colon cancer. A wealth of other studies over the past three decades confirm that consumption of saturated fats raises substantially the risk of contracting these diseases.

The “all-fat-is-bad” crusade probably dates back to the U.S. Senate’s 1977 “Dietary Goals for the United States,” which originally recommended that Americans reduce their meat consumption. The outraged meat industry forced the Senate to recommend reduced fat consumption instead.

Consumers who find the message of health authorities confusing have been listening to the wrong messenger. The national nutritional consensus, supported by the 2005 “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” and leading health-advocacy organizations, has been simple, direct and unwavering: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unsaturated fats = good; saturated fats and cholesterol (present only in animal products), trans fats, sugar, salt = bad.

— Albert Bowers

Fix the budget or toss ’em out

I can’t believe the Bush federal budget: cut education and Medicare while offering a whopping $1.35 trillion tax cut over the next decade that is aimed at the very wealthy — at a time when many folks are struggling to make ends meet. That’s just not right.

The Bush budget leaves out critical funds for Hurricane Katrina recovery and rebuilding — breaking a promise the president made four months ago to “rebuild New Orleans” and the Gulf Coast.

The Bush tax cuts for the rich are a cruel insult while the rest of us are making sacrifices. We’ve already given billions in tax cuts to the rich in the last five years. No more!

Congress should reject the budget, and if they don’t, voters should fire them. It’s clear that the budget is a failure. Now it’s up to Congress to set things right. Republican members of Congress need to stand up to Bush on behalf of the middle-class folks whose services will be cut. And if they don’t, they should be thrown out of office this November.

— Jonathan Wise

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